Most people associate New York State with the huge titan of a city that sits directly on its most southwestern point, and while NYC is deeply integral to that New York State of Mind, the clump of brick and concrete skyscrapers is only one of a vast array of different landscapes found throughout the state, from the landlocked Cooperstown with its elegant Victorian houses and autumnal fields, primed for tossing a ball around; to the 75,000 gallons of water rocketing by the second over the edge of Niagara Falls State Park just a stone’s throw away from its sister city across the border. Plenty of lakes, lakes in the shape of clawing tears in a curtain of farmland, or blue paint splatters across the map, or clean scars shared with both Vermont and Quebec; up close they’re rushing waters leading to placid rivers. Mountains: The sprawling Adirondack range by the north just grazing Vermont; the Catskills, a city relief just below Albany where the city lights just look a lot like stars; and lower still, bleeding into Pennsylvania, the Appalachians. Want to see real New York? Check out New York state’s top 10 destinations.
Photo by Daniel Peckham/Flickr.
From a map, they look less like literal fingers than tears in the fabric of an otherwise pristine tectonic plate, left over from the last ice age. However, for residents of the state and elsewhere, the lakes are a yearly magnet for water sports lovers, family campers and local wine aficionados. Eleven lakes were created by clawing glaciers, and they each serve a different purpose. The two largest, Cayuga and Seneca lakes, are home to the most renowned wineries of the area, while the smaller Hemlock Lake serves as a popular destination to fishers for its abundance of trout, bass, perch and crappie fish. Boaters and campers head to Otisco Lake while vacation home owners and long-term vacationers rent their summer homes in Canandaigua Lake near the city of Rochester, as well as Honeoye Lake, known for its clear, clean water and shallow depths. Scattered between the lakes are quaint towns, illustrious parks replete with winding hiking trails, rolling hills blanketed with vineyards and unspoiled lands perfect for camping and exploring.
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New York, New York, it’s a helluva town! From the electrifying flash and buzz of Time Square to the significantly more relaxed but no less legendary Central Park, New York’s got every kind of atmosphere and way of life embedded between its long towers. There’s almost too much in New York, rendering the city difficult to describe, however, if there’s anything that our films, television shows, musical productions and literature have told us, it’s that we should go. Travelers should go to see the Broadway plays that turn artists into legends; or to see Wall Street, the battlegrounds of our international financial systems. There’s Fifth Avenue, the luxury shopping district known around the world; and Williamsburg, the hipster mecca with its restored warehouse lofts filled with bespectacled, overeducated and underemployed youth with PBRs in hand jamming out to vintage store records. What else: diving into the culture capital of the world at the Museum of Modern Art and The Met, walking under dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History, and wandering the architectural titan that is the Guggenheim Museum, scoping out masterpieces by Chagall, Picasso, and van Gogh. Feeling hungry? That’s a whole other guidebook.
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Straddling the US and Canada border, the majestic Niagara Falls has seen its history weave in and out of the hands of barrel-lugging daredevils, Prohibition-era bootleggers, hydroelectric companies and the citizens of the idyllic Town of Niagara, and, more recently, vacationing families. Every second, 75,000 gallons of water cascade over the Niagara Falls State Park, creating ethereal mists and rainbows, as well as a thrilling view into the basin of it. Best traversed by a boat that’ll leave your eyes (and body) misty, America’s oldest state park also offers miles of hiking and biking trails, sublime scenery and delicious restaurants which showcase the area’s local wine. The Rainbow Bridge across the basin also provides visitors with an easy and walkable way to see the flashier Canadian side, which offers casinos, family friendly theme parks, outlet malls, an arts district and a stunning view of the larger falls.
Lake Placid is a year-round destination for families and couples looking for a low-key escape. Between the impressive peaks of the Adirondack Park and the town’s selection of boutique craft stores and local bakeries, restaurants and bars of almost every variety along Main Street, there’s nearly something for everyone. In the winter, this two-time Olympic host city turns into a snow sports enthusiast’s dream, offering ice climbing in Keene Valley, speed skating at the famous Speed Skating Oval, and cross country skiing down the many trails from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid, and more. In the summer, the park opens up to stunning mountain biking trails, thousands of miles of road for road biking and hiking galore. Having grown acclaimed over the decades as a major tourism destination for lovers of outdoor sports and nature, the accommodations range from budget motels, quaint B&Bs, as well as a number of relaxing lakeside resorts and spas.
Located 60 miles east of NYC, encompassing townships of Long Island Wine Country on the North Fork of Long Island offers over 45 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms. Apart from the nationally acclaimed wines produced in the area, this side of Long Island presents a sort of beach town that seems somewhere in the mind between New England and Malibu. For top-shelf seafood, one doesn’t need to look very hard (try to Frisky Oyster for some frisky fresh oysters, and prawns, and fish, and some succulent grilled ahi tuna fillet). Beach-wise, the North Fork offers some goodies, with a varied range of personalities; while in town, visitors and residents casually stroll past chic boutiques, stately Victorian homes and a vast array of upscale and casual restaurants in which to enjoy the local wine.
Located in the idyllic village of Cooperstown, population just under 2,000 people and as American as Norman Rockwell eating a slice of cherry pie, is the holy grail of American sports – the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The town’s significance with the sport lies only in the complex itself – it was founded by the owner of a local hotel, with the sole interest of bringing tourists into the city after the Great Depression, and now it’s a golden mecca for all ball playing fans; the holy shrine to some of the country’s greatest heroes. Cooperstown started from the bottom, and now they here. Notably, Cooperstown was also home to Erastus Flavel Beadle, a pulp fiction writer who created the Dime novel, bringing accessible (and sometimes smutty) literature to a diverse range of readers. Visitors to Cooperstown will find a surprising variety of activities in this small town: Otsego Lake is in itself a source of fun and excitement, offering tubing, sailing, kayaking, waterskiing and fishing opportunities in the summer; and ice fishing, snowshoeing, skating and snowmobile through the colder months. For dilettantes of the arts, the annual Glimmerglass Festival is an outdoor opera festival right by the sprawling parks of Otsego Lake and collaborates with local restaurants to bring a nice spread of munchies and wine. For everything else, there’s always baseball.
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An hour north of NYC, Beacon is a quirky little town that hides unexpected surprises. From the outset, Mount Beacon certainly demands to be hiked, the highest peak in the Hudson Highlands which reveals the sublime views over town and river. In town, the Dia:Beacon gallery holds a number of educational art program and has encouraged and spotlit local artists in their impressive 300,000 square foot facility since 1974. However, the by far coolest thing that travelers are likely to find in Beacon is right off the shore, on Pollepel Island in the Hudson River between Beacon and Cold Spring: Bannerman’s Castle was built in 1900 on a piece of land devoid of life and energy except for patchy foliage and swirling whispers of ghosts. He housed ammunition and military surplus in his fortress and studded its towers with cannons – now it’s a brick and mortar shell, with sunken bridges connected by hiking trails. Want to see the real castle ruins of Gilded Age aristocracy? Take a trip to Beacon.
For much of history, Saratoga Springs has been a major vacation destination for New Yorkers; its Spa State Park, "The Public’s Resort," is replete with mineral baths, 18-hole and 9-hole golf courses, free tennis courts, pools, hiking trails, picnic benches, barbecues and more. And in a sense, what helped put Saratoga Springs on the map in the 19th century is what continues to keep people coming back: gorgeous pedestrian-friendly main streets lined with colorful Victorian buildings, the oldest continuously operating race track in the country and serene mineral springs that lends itself well to a spa community. Beyond this, there are tons of scenic parks to hike and bike; while downtown Saratoga Springs is a shopper’s paradise, balancing craft stores, chic boutiques, antique shops, haute couture showrooms and eccentric gift shops (know anyone who loves dolls? Why not get them something at Sweetheart’s Dolls, which is home to 24 lines of dolls from porcelain to Raggedy Ann.)
Located an hour north of Saratoga Springs, nestled in the shadows of the Adirondack Mountains, Lake George is a serene and low-key family destination that draws visitors from all over the state for its superbly clean and always exciting water, perfect in different parts for whitewater rafting, boating, kayaking, tubing and swimming. Visitors can choose the kind of getaway they want, whether it’s with the adventure outfitter companies bringing families down to the river, the hot air balloon companies, horseback riding, or just chilling by the beach. Families in general gravitate towards The Great Escape, a Six Flags theme park which comprises all manners of thrilling coasters, free-fall water park rides, kid-friendly rides and more. In-town, the trolley takes both tourists and residents around the already walkable town, from the boutiques and restaurants in the main village, to the hotels along the water and dockside cafés and restaurants.
The summertime playground of New York’s rich and famous, the townships and hamlets encompassed by the Hamptons boast the most expensive zip codes in North America, and their beaches aren’t even, like, comparable to Cancun or anything. The Hamptons are great opportunities to golf in exclusive clubs, dine in trendy pop-up restaurants helmed by up and coming New York-famous chefs like Jason Weiner and Larry Kolar; or hip vegan juice bars where the chance to bump into Gwyneth Paltrow looms heart-stutteringly high (the Montauk Juice Factory, which, according to Goop, caters to the area’s "surf and yoga crowd", is a pretty solid bet to check all our favorite hard-core juicers). For a low-key and whimsical dinner in a typically bourgeois scene, the Rumba in Hampton Bays serves up Caribbean-inspired seafood and rum cocktails by the water.